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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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October102008

Congress Passes Bill Mandating Online Safety Education

Education technology organizations are hailing the passage of legislation in the House and Senate addressing online safety education in schools. The legislation will require schools receiving federal Internet subsidies to educate their students about appropriate online behavior and cyberbullying.

The legislation is part of a much larger bill known as the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which mostly focuses on the FCC redefining and identifying tiers of high-speed Internet services, as well as the provision of grants for broadband initiatives at the state level. Deep inside the bill, however, is a section dedicated to amending the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Introduced by Sen. John McCain in 1999 and passed by Congress in December 2000, CIPA was created over concerns that students would use Internet access in schools and libraries to access inappropriate materials. The law, which applies only to institutions that receive federal E-Rate subsidies for offsetting the cost of Internet access, requires that they certify they have policies and technology in place to promote Internet safety, such as an acceptable use policy and filtering software.

The CIPA amendment included in the broadband legislation adds further detail to the types of online safety policies required of schools, stating “part of its Internet safety policy is educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.”

Meanwhile, the bill mandates that the Federal Trade Commission carry out a nationwide program “to increase public awareness and provide education regarding strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children.” The program is required to include the promotion of online safety best practices, by means of a national outreach campaign targeting the general public, schools, local government, nonprofit organizations and local law enforcement. To assist in these activities, the bill also tasks the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish an online safety working group. This group, to be made up of representatives from the public and private sectors, would review and evaluate online safety tools and outreach efforts. They will also be expected to report back to Congress within one year regarding the success of these efforts.

Two leading education technology associations, ISTE and CoSN, came out with a joint statement praising the move. “ISTE and CoSN have advocated for this approach for many years and we are pleased that Congress has now ratified our position. Education, not mandatory blocking and filtering, is the best way to protect and prepare America’s students.”

They continued:

Both CoSN and ISTE believe that the Internet contains valuable content, collaboration and communication opportunities that can and do materially contribute to a student’s academic growth and preparation for the workforce. However, we recognize that students need to learn how to avoid inappropriate content and unwanted contacts from strangers while online. In our view, educating students on how to keep themselves safe while online is the best line of defense because no technological silver bullet has yet been devised that will guarantee that students are effectively protected. Therefore, we embrace wholeheartedly the thoughtful approach that S. 1492 takes, particularly the flexibility that it affords districts on determining how best to educate students about staying safe online.
Congress’ passage of S. 1492 represents real progress in the area of Internet safety and we urge President Bush to sign it into law.

Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what happens, assuming the bill does indeed become law. “educating minors about appropriate online behavior” can be interpreted by school districts in a variety of ways, from the most cursory of overviews to in-depth curricula that forces students to think critically about their online activities.

The ball will soon be in your court. So how would you implement the policy in your school district? -andy

Filed under : Policy, Safety

Responses

I share ISTE and CoSN opinion. Education is the best thing. It is like teaching children to swim rather than always making sure they are not around water. As a parent and as a teacher my goal is to teach kids how to function safely no matter their surroundings.

CyberNetKids

Sooo… Does that mean that kids get to sit in a class and talk about being safe online? Since all the social networking sites are blocked in the majority of school districts, the course in “appropriate online behavior” can’t actually happen in — you know — online spaces.

I’m envisioning a sort of “driver’s ed” class without the car, the road, or other drivers. Perhaps an instructor sitting in the front of the class having the students practice hand signals and making vrroom-vrroom noises.

Call me cynical, but since schools which don’t have E-Rate subsidies are using “CIPA requirements” as a rational for shutting down access, I’m not expecting them to act rationally here, either.

I am thrilled that congress has realized that educating rather than restricting is the correct approach. Even if schools were required to restrict access while on campus, they are sending these young people home (where there is no restrictions) without the appropriate tools to decipher the good from the bad on the Internet.

If schools are interested in bringing cyber-ed to their community, Cyber Education Consultants can help. We have built a unique program that covers K-12, parent and teacher education.

Visit us at www.yourcec.org.

My humble thoughts here:
http://mguhlin.net/2008/10/cybersafety-not-just-for-grownups.html

Thanks,
Miguel Guhlin
Around the Corner-mGuhlin.net
http://mguhlin.net

Nathan, In a sense, I agree with you. Give them a ‘Driver’s Ed’. Students simply are not taught how to use tools like myspace and wiki’s effectively, such as for their own education, appropriate networking among peers, and so on. No one has taught them it is unacceptable to ‘bully’ online. Give the students a ‘course’ that includes hands-on practice. LET them interact outside their own school bubble, perhaps with other school ‘bubbles’.

Let them learn the best way (using a safe environment) to handle situations that may be negative, such as bullying remarks. Discussions in a classroom lecture are just not going to do it. Another suggestion would be for the school’s to develop a ‘virtual code of conduct’ similiar to IBM’s virtual code of conduct, but of course slanted towards education, AND give their students safe opportunities to practice it.

Administration needs to stop being afraid to use social tools for education, just as students need to learn how to safely use those tools for their own personal improvement.

I think educating students about internet bullying would be a great thing. Students, of course, would likely view the educational session as a waste of time, but if we could even get to a few students, perhaps some of the mean words posted on MySpace pages would stop. I teach a particular group of high school students who seem to think that fighting is “normal” and “acceptable.” Most of the fights these particular students have gotten into in and out of school have started on the internet. Perhaps education would could stop some of these fights before they begin.

I also agree with Melissa—Instead of restricting students’ use of the internet on school grounds, we should have them sign a code of conduct to follow. We need to teach students how to be use the internet like responsible adults.

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